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Creative Wedding Photography

Lesson 1 of 33

Introduction and Gear

Susan Stripling

Creative Wedding Photography

Susan Stripling

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Lesson Info

1. Introduction and Gear

Lesson Info

Introduction and Gear

I wanted to start off by telling you just a little bit about how I got into wedding photography I don't want to bore you about like the's air, my inspirational stories are like, this is my, you know, path in the world, but I feel like without a little biography kind of a little less relevant. I started my business in two thousand won shot my very first wedding that fall, I had never been a wedding photographer before, I actually went to school for theater, so I have a degree in acting, which is phenomenally useless and prepared me to wait tables and temp, which is also awesome. I always liked having a camera like I was always the friend that brought a camera to things and took pictures and thought I was really artistic, like in college, boring pictures of my friends playing the guitar like really kind of artsy stuff like that, but I wasn't really very good and I just thought it was a hobby because I thought that if you're going to be a wedding photographer, you had teo open a studio wh...

ere you had like little chicky is at easter time and like pictures with santa at christmas, and I just I didn't know that there was any other way to do it, so in late two thousand one, I actually picked up a book completely randomly, I was living in new york about to move to florida, and I had gone to my very first photo plus expo at the javits center, and I didn't know what it wass I was working in an office, and one of my office mates who was really into photography was going to go over and check out this trade show he's like I would just come over it's, you know, it's not very expensive, you could walk around like it's just really cool you get to see lots of cameras and was like, that sounds really great. So I went and bambi control was selling her book the art of wedding photo journalism, and I just stumbled on the booth that she was selling at, and I picked it up and I thought I had no wedding photography could look like this like this is this isn't what I thought it was. This is art, this is beautiful, so I bought the book didn't really think anything of it actually still have the book went home, moved, florida got married, had a baby and I was staying at home with my daughter, and the extent of my picture taking was taking pictures of my kid, not even very well, not even with a special camera, but a colleague of my husband at the time was getting married. And she didn't really was gonna hire a pro she just kind of wanted like a friend with a camera to just take pictures, not knowing that that was literally like, you know, a disaster waiting to happen I said, oh yeah, I'll do that like that sounds really fun and I went home and like immediately hyperventilated because I just volunteered to shoot somebody's wedding, right? And even though she wasn't expecting like great professional work, I felt like there was a responsibility to not you just not blow the job, so I had about six months and spend some time online googling such professional things as what isn't f stop and how to take pictures at a wedding. True, um, I went to the wedding with one camera body one lens, one flash and that was it, but by that time, I had learned enough to know that I wasn't in any position to try anything it's try anything major, so all I needed to do is put my camera on auto and just go take pictures that weren't blurry do a good job for her, so I took the pictures and I delivered them they know they're fine, they're exactly what you would expect your friend with a pretty good eye and a okay camera to take so from there one of her friends asked me to shoot her wedding and I was like, no, you don't understand I'm not a wedding photographer like this isn't what I do and they're like well, do for me what you did for her I said, ok, so what did that? And then somebody else asked and I thought, you know, I'm staying home with my daughter she's really little maybe this could be like a part time job, you know, good she weddings on the weekend, how hard is that? You know, I'm going to make, like, tons of money doing this and I'll have the whole week free to do whatever I want, right? I think it's just working on saturday like it's, no big thing, so I went to a bridal fair and totally unprepared for the bridal fair in tallahassee, florida. I showed up with, like, three, eight by tens on easels and a stack of business cards, and I show up in every ones putting up thes foam core doors and these like living room sets, and I thought, oh my god, I don't know what I'm doing here, but what was really funny is that everybody completely mistook what I was doing and thought that I was like, this is in minimalist, who just I didn't need all these sets and props it's all about the work, and I was like, yes that is that's like totally what I was going for. So I ended up booking a bunch of weddings off of that bridal fair, and I was charging eleven hundred dollars to shoot a wedding was like all day, all your files, everything you want for eleven hundred dollars. And I thought I was going to rake it in and waited my taxes for the first year. And I thought, this is terrible. How do people make any money shooting weddings? And then I went into my second year and was booking more and more weddings and that's when I really started concentrating on the skill of photography because I thought I could do all this with marketing are I could do all of this with advertising, and I could get people to hire me. But I actually I think that there might be something there for me artistically with this so that's when I started taking more classes, learning more about my gear, learning more about my own limitations and how to get better. And every year I would improve just a little bit and in those early stages, everything, you learn his major right? Like, everytime you go, shoot it's three hundred times better than the shoot that you did before, and you come back with, like seventy five images for your portfolio. And in the next year, you go out and you come back with, like, twenty images for your portfolio and then, like two and then the getting better is coming in baby steps in increments. Um, so that's, kind of how I got started with that. I went full time, probably in about two thousand for two thousand five, and then I did what I thought all successful wedding photographer should do, which was to branch out into portrait, and I started shooting portrait of my local wedding clients who were having babies, and then I opened a portrait studio and I hired employees, and that was about two thousand seven I was doing about thirty weddings a year in florida, and they were all destination weddings with flying to everything or driving like seven, eight hours to a wedding, and I was also shooting, you know, eighty to ninety portrait sessions a year, and I was desperately unhappy, like I was miserable I had built this business that had not gone very well organizationally is like building a house and just adding on additions without any plan, it didn't flow very well. This hand wasn't working with this hand like it just it was kind of a mess and everything was getting done, but there was no efficiency to it whatsoever. But in two thousand eight had the opportunity to move up to new york and I thought you know what? When I do this, I'm dropping the studio I'm dropping the employees I'm dropping the portrait, the headshots, everything I'm just going to do weddings and if I cannot sustain my business on just weddings, then I will look elsewhere but this is what I really want to do it's an opportunity to restructure, rebrand and go out in a brand new market where nobody knows me. So that's what I did my first year in new york, I shot twenty eight weddings twenty seven somewhere around there the second year I shot forty five this year I have fifty three weddings um I shoot them all by myself I don't have any associates I do everything myself except my raw production, which you will learn about on sunday, which you should absolutely come back for um I'm really happy very happy I don't really do portrait's anymore I don't do commercial work, I don't do head shots. I refer all of that stuff out to other people I am one hundred percent weddings all the time and I think that if I'm going to stand up here and I'm going to tell you how to shoot weddings, I'm going to try to teach you how to succeed by shooting weddings I need to actually shoot weddings myself so I'm not relevant to you unless I'm continually working and first and foremost to me are my wedding clients like that is my business, I love teaching I am honored to be here but servicing my clients, taking care of them running my business that's number one for me, so yeah, till the end I still live in brooklyn. I go back and forth between brooklyn in philadelphia, and I have two little kids that's pretty much all ideo like really? Sometimes I read books that's about survival kit so the first section that I'm going to talk about I want to talk to you about the gear that I take two weddings um, the gear that you take two weddings does not make the wedding photographer, you can go out and you can buy an entire kit of top of the line here, and if you don't know how to shoot it, you're not going to make the pictures. You can also go out with an iphone, and if you understand light, you can make the pictures it's it's to a certain point it's not about the gear, however, I want to talk you through everything that I take two weddings and what I use it for. I can tell you what my favorite linds is, but unless you understand exactly what the linds is being used for, the results that it's kind of producing for me, the gear is going to become completely irrelevant, like I tell you, to buy hundred five hundred five millimeter macro, but what does it d'oh? Why did I buy it? How do I shoot it? Hopefully that will help you, either as your improving your kit of deer, or maybe you're debating a lindsay or camera body purchase, and maybe this will tip you one way or the other, or even maybe just show you how to use a piece of gear that you've had for years in a different way, so just to kind of briefly go through it, and if you want the entire detailed list of the gear that I have, it is the list of all of my gear, including pictures, is free with the creative live course, so if you just want a list of my gear go to town, it is awesome. I laid it all out on the floor and took a very fancy photo of it for you, so it is yours if you would like it. I have four cameras, the g seven hundred, the d three of the d three s and the t four I do not believe in going out and buying the latest and greatest just because it is the latest and greatest, I'm only going to spend money on something if I feel like it will actually improve the product that I'm giving to my clients when the defore came out, the reason I bought it is because one of my old cameras was getting way too many actual ations on it. It was about time to traded up for something new, and I could see the value in the new purchase. I've been a nikon shooter since two thousand seven I can't imagine ever shooting anything else. I shoot whatever you want. I don't care what you shoot as long as you're getting good results. So these are the four cameras that I have in my bag, the g seven hundred and d three our backup cameras, they're generally not in rotation during the actual wedding day. My two primary cameras on the wedding are the d three us in the d for why not to defour's? I don't need to de force my defense is great that's a phenomenal camera, I don't need to sell it and buy a d for just because I can talk to you again on saturday. When we talk about business, all of the gear that I buy, I buy it in cash, I don't put anything on credit, I don't buy it if I can't afford it do not financially overextend yourself to buy this year and will again get into more detail on that. One hundred five millimeter macro. Phenomenal, linds eighty five one four and again, we're gonna go through each of these one at a time. The twenty four to seventy, which is a complete workhorse. An amazing lens, the seventy two, two hundred, which is my favorite thing in the entire world. Now that I have ah, tell a converter I could make that two hundred, four hundred, which is kind of fun of a thirty five millimeter, the one for and the two oh, I have two of them. I don't know why. The twenty eight millimeter to eight, which is a normal, enormously fantastic about a billion flashes. I seem to keep losing them, buying new ones and then finding them. So I have quite a interesting collection, and then a lot of flash accessories. I'm going talk to you about what I have and what I use. So also video lights, which I love. I have a phenomenal one and have a dirt cheap one, and I love them both. So first things first, we're gonna talk about the hundred five millimeter macro. I used to have the sixty millimeter. That is a wonderful linds as well. However, since lynn's compression is sort of my thing, and I really like long lenses, I really love the look of a compressed background I decided that upgrading to that hundred five millimeter was definitely worth it for me because the extra compression I did actually think helped improve my photographs, so like I said before, don't buy something new just because somebody told you to use it, weigh the pros and cons and figure out if it would actually fit into the style of what you're shooting and what you need. So with one hundred five millimeter macro, I take the ring shots that lots of people ask me about shoes, details, small things, little things on the reception table, those are all things that one hundred five get used for if I'm feeling really crazy, I'll throw the tele converter on it and make it a two hundred ten, which is really fine when he looked at me like, seriously, yeah, seriously it's kind kind of ridiculous with it right about now, but to talk to you about how to use this hundred five millimeter macro, the biggest misconception that most people have when they're shooting with a macro is that the f stop that you choose is kind of the same thought processes any other linds that you use, but it's not when you're working with a macro lens your plane of focus is incredibly small and the reason because of that is the magnification of the limbs so a two point eight on a seventy two, two hundred it's not the same depth of field as a two point eight with one hundred five millimeter mac curlin's or any macro lens for that matter. So if you're going out in your shooting, your ring shots and you're shooting your detail shots at two point eight or three point five, you're going to go home and you're gonna look at your ring shots you're gonna be like, listen, the prongs of the ring is totally in focus, but the entire inside of the diamond is completely out of focus something's wrong with my limbs or what am I doing wrong? You're not doing anything wrong, you just need to be mindful of the magnification of that macro so when I'm shooting a ring shot and you'll get to see me do that actually later today I always start my ring shots off at eleven sometimes f thirteen sometimes even more than that if the stone is big or it's kind of a deep cut or there's a lot going on, this was shot at f sixteen and when you actually look at it and you look kind of up close on it, you can see that the ring is completely and focus the ring box is completely in focus, the front of the frame is in focus and the background is completely gone ah lot of people think that your magnification of your macro is the same thing is like out of focus from shooting at two point eight, but it's not it's, just simply the magnification. There are a gazillion articles on the internet if you want to see this explained in five hundred different ways, if what I'm saying is it really making sense to you? Just kugel magnification of a macro lens? And there are tons of examples if you want to learn the math behind it, which I don't want to learn, and I'm not going to teach you. You can. I would like you guys to stay awake this early in the morning, so we're not doing math, but I strongly suggest that when you go out and you start trying to work with your macro, if you are having trouble, look at the settings that you're using, make sure you're at f eleven or even higher, and you'll notice a great great improvement in the detail shots that you're doing like that, and like that, those are at least a half eleven f sixteen. Probably this isn't f nine and if you notice this is a great example for the magnification of a macro, because you can actually see the line of what's in focus on this glittery clutch that I was shooting and what you lose in the background. And in the foreground so when you're working with your macro, not only are you thinking about your plane of focus, you have to think about your foreground in your background and we'll do that when we're shooting rings a little bit later today, how far away your background needs to be, how close your background can be and what moving them back and forth does with the compression of the macro that you choose to use be it the sixty or the hundred or an insane tell a converted two hundred so I do use the macro for for many, many detail parts of the day, but I also will sometimes use my eighty five millimeter for details sometimes I don't want f eleven and everything and focus sometimes I want f one point four and only a little tiny bit in focus if you look at this image, the on ly thing and focus are kind of the sparkles at the very front of the very toe of the shoe and that's deliberate ah lot of people think if they have an eighty five one before they have a fifty one too that you have to shoot it at one two are you have to shoot it at one for what you don't have to do anything, I'm only going to shoot at one four if it's going to produce the results that I want so for something like this, I could have shot this with the macro, but he didn't really want to shoot this with the macro gonna shot this with the seventy two, two hundred if I wanted, but I didn't really want to. What I wanted was one point four and I like the eighty five it's got just enough compression to be very, very flattering on the face. It's not crazy it's still a lovely basic linds you khun generally use it in most getting ready rooms, but I'll use it for things like this where I want both of those shoes in that pool of light, but I only want the first one to be very chris, but only a portion of it to be very crisp, so I'm going to shoot it at one four so I can have them closer together, lose the back one and keep only a shred of the front one clear. So as you can see, not only am I considering my composition and my lighting for every image, I'm also considering mei lin selection, this wouldn't be the same if it was shot at four or f eleven. What I'm looking for here is just her eyelashes in focus or I want the background to melt away and have that almost lovely blur. You also have to be careful when you're shooting at one four, and this is my biggest pet peeve of looking at wedding photographer blog's now is people when I can tell they're shooting the fifty one two at one two and you've got two people in the scene and only one person's eyes in focus and everything else is gone and you could tell it wasn't intentional. I understand it might be kind of a bit of a like maverick thinking right now, but I kind of like my people all in focus, so I know it's crazy go figure, but what you can see here is that jen and her mom were standing on the same plane, so when I shoot janet one four and I put the focal point right on top of her eye and her eyes crisply and focus if her mother is on the same plane, her mother's eyes also going to be in focus when you're working with a one four or you're working with a one two, you have to be very, very, very careful about how you focus you cannot focus and recompose at one point four, even just a little bit because your depth of field is so small if you focus and recompose, you're going to lose it so this is one of the points during the day when I'd definitely make sure that I moved my focal point in my camera right on top of what I wanted focus so all move it so that it's right on top of jen's I or so it's right on top of an eyelash and that way you know if that focal point has locked in tow what you want crisp you've got it sometimes I will use my one point four at one point four because the natural light in for example a reception room is absolutely beautiful but it's very very dark so sometimes instead of pulling out of flash and popping a flash on people I'll use my eighty five one four at one four or at one eight to shoot natural light at night now I see a lot of people shooting reception stuff at one point four oh I don't really use flash oh I'm a natural light shooter well if the light isn't good if your picture is not going to be good so don't shoot a reception with an eighty five one for at one for if the lighting is splotchy or the lighting is not what you want don't be afraid to add light but if the light is there and the ambient light is beautiful this was a rehearsal dinner and the sun was setting and they were by the water in newport and the light was coming through the windows and it was beautiful it was just very, very dim, so I couldn't shoot with anything other than one for knowing that if I make the decision to shoot at one four one eight, I am going to lose a little bit so for example, this lovely girl who was laughing with her stepmother and her father on lee her faces and focus and everything else isn't so you need to bear in mind the importance of everything else in your image if you're going to shoot at one four one eight do you mind not having them perfectly clear? And if you don't mind if this is the look you're going for, this is another thing that you might use this incredibly versatile lends for it's not just for getting ready but for getting ready it could be insanely beautiful. I love the look of one point four as it melts away into the background and I'll talk about this a bit more when we get to the seventy two, two hundred a lot of people confuse compression with depth of field and it's not the same thing so just bear that in mind also as your choosing your lenses again eighty five one four focal point in the image on the left right on top of her I focal point in the image on the right right on top of her eyelash that is closest to the camera we'll talk about these really simple window lit bridal portrait's a little bit later but my go to linz for those is always the eighty five one four at one for any questions so far about the macro or the eighty five I realize I'm talking in like a coffee induced like beat the clock sort of way yeah questions anything anything I can answer it keep moving on oh god ok hit me tell me something nice that we can move on I think well we have to see tim athens says amen still working and not just which is fantastic going back to your intro I think that what could I possibly teach you if I'm not actively out there shooting at weddings so that was that's great that people are really enjoying that and jackie says love the information about the compression with the macro lens beautiful work thank you and I agree I think that hearing all of the your lens choices and then why and what a result it gets it's such a nice combination of information for us to understand why you don't like your just to buy gear you know? But I used to think like the seventy two hundred was the thing that you bought because you had to stand in the church balcony and you couldn't get really close to people and the fifty is what you use when you could stand close to them but it wasn't until I started realizing that each of these lenses is a specific tool that took my work upto another level and I know that it's photo one o one for a lot of people but not many of us went to college for this aa lot of us stumbled into this so if you're going to stumble into this at least do it right please pay your taxes I'll talk to you about that on saturday yes sir you know so the pictures the book of the shape you know how the aperture yes you you paying attention because some was round and some had a slight hexagon shape you care about him not really as long as it's pretty I'm not aiming for one over the other generally when I'm shooting with a mackerel I'm just looking for my background to be graphic in some way either that or completely clear and I'll shoot both ways this afternoon in our phenomenal getting ready room about which I am incredibly excited if you want a quick sneak peak of the getting ready room we're going to shoot in later today and tomorrow I'm on instagram my name is susan stripling all one word on instagram and I posted a video of the room if you'd like to cry along with us radio it is exactly what I asked for and more so yeah moving on we got to move on nods everyone's awake wait one quick question hit me on the internet users from creative angle when taking ring shots that f fourteen to use a tripod never I don't even own the tripod I realize that's probably incredibly unprofessional but now I don't know what I never I just don't use it for anything a cz long as you're careful with your shutter speed and we'll talk when we're using the lens is about the shutter speed you should be choosing and how they kind of correlated the focal length of your lens as long as your shutter speed is high enough you should be good to go thank you internet uh so we good for the twenty four to seventy now okay so the twenty four to seventy I used to not like it because I used to think that zoom lenses made you lazy and that to be like really you know professional I had to shoot primes and run around like a crazy person all over the place and then I bought the nikon twenty four to seventy and realize that it's basically insane like it is the sharpest crispest most wonderful lens it is a workhorse so when I start the wedding day and again we'll go through him to shoot the whole day tomorrow you get to see all of this the twenty four to seventy goes on my d three s and it stays there all day long it is the most versatile, and I have you can shoot it in almost any scenario, I can hand it to my assistant and it's pretty much always a great focal length it's a really wonderful linds tohave and again, I don't want you to feel like I'm a commercial for any linds or any type of equipment I'm not paid to endorse anybody or anything like that. I buy all of my own gear myself. This is just what I choose to use and why, but the newer nikon lenses with the nano coat on the glass clarity and christmas of these lenses is ridiculous, like it's just beautiful. So the twenty four to seventy you have very minimal distortion on the edges, and I'm sort of kind of crazy about it. The thing I like about this lens is like I mentioned before, it is a work horse, you can use it for anything it's pretty much applicability, any situation, so if I'm shooting a getting ready and I have the eighty five one four and I'm working eighty five one four, I also have the twenty four to seventy most of the time I'm shooting at myself sometimes my assistant, who is justice it's, an assistant she's, not a second shooter, she'll hold the camera that I'm not using. I try to be very careful not to hang my cameras around my neck or hang them off of my shoulders or hang them off of my body because it fifty three weddings a year I just don't want to have to get that many massages and chiropractor visits because I'm being weighted down by all my gear, so I'll hand off the camera that I'm not using and if she sees a moment that she can shoot with it, she will she doesn't have to, but she can she's also probably watching right now, mortified that I'm talking about her and we'll talk about her a lot more but the twenty four to seventy like I've mentioned before it's a great linds for something like this when you've zoomed in close, you've shot with the eighty five you can put that down, pull up the twenty four to seventy and you have a completely different look to the picture, usually for something like this for getting ready for a portrait. I'm usually somewhere between two point eight and four point five, depending on how much of it I actually want in focus like, for example, here I would shoot this with my seventy two, two hundred nice and close to these beautiful people getting that great light, but then in the exact same spot when you open up with that twenty four to seventy it's a completely different picture different compression at a different focal length, a different look to the image like that, not the same if you shot compressed, I love compression, but I am not always needing my images to be compressed. I'm trying very hard that everything that I am doing is creating a richer look to the entire gallery of images that I'm giving my clients so something like this beautiful at two hundred millimeters, a completely different photograph at twenty four millimeters, same with this, I'm not a huge fan of what we jokingly like to call big scene little people pictures because for the most part, it's a picture of a landscape of the bridegroom sort of stapled in there somewhere. The master of these images is marcus bell, who apparently shoots in he doesn't need this class because all of his locations are in insanely gorgeous, but we don't all have the rolling fields and hills of bali to shoot on. New jersey does not look like bali as much as I wish it did, but you can still make really interesting, graphically beautiful images with a lighting elin's if you are a very conscious of what else is going into your frame so something like this, I'm going to shoot it at eight or even more maybe f twenty two because the scene is the picture and I want it all to be in focus so in thinking about your lenses, you also have to think about the aperture that you want to work with. How much of it do you want in focus, the opportunity that you choose? Will it help push your eyes to your subjects? If I go with f twenty two, maybe it'll be a little harder to find my bride and groom then if I'd gone at one point, four in the focus goes straight to them. So these are all of the things that I'm thinking about is I'm picking up the gear in my bag to use it, you know, for dancing the twenty four to seventy for dancing? Fantastic, fantastic lynn's, unless I'm exhausted or the sea, the dance was really crowded and I can't really use much past the twenty four I can't really zoom in, then I'll switch over to one of the other lenses that all mentioned in a bit, but the twenty four to seventy is also my go to linds for dancing, not first dances, not parent dances, but those final two to three hours of the reception. When it's just everybody partying on the dance floor that's the lens I'm going to reach for I love that guy, he is often

Class Description

Join award-winning wedding photographer Susan Stripling for a 3-day journey through the world of artistic, compelling, and financially successful creative wedding photography.

Throughout this course, you’ll explore lighting, posing, capturing detail, and much more. Susan will simplify the potentially daunting process of selecting the right equipment for every wedding’s needs. You’ll learn about transforming poorly-lit or visually uninteresting wedding settings into picturesque images.

Susan will also guide you through the workflow she uses, and explain the composition principles that result in dynamic images. You’ll explore concrete, on-the-fly troubleshooting strategies for unexpected wedding events.

By the end of this course, you’ll have the tools you need to think on your feet while photographing every phase of a wedding, with jaw-dropping results.



Outstanding, one of the best courses on Creative Live. Wow! The delivery is sharp, on point, and focused. I've learned tons. There are so many gems I've watched this video many times and have now purchased more videos from Susan Stripling. Outstanding presenter. My photography has already improved greatly by implementing some of the techniques shown.

a Creativelive Student

The content of the course was perfectly taught at a "real" level. Susan's work clearly, speaks for itself, but her willingness to be so generous with her knowledge is fantastic. She has become an instant favorite of mine and her style is truly special and unique. The course was reasonably priced and I am beyond thrilled that I have taken the time to learn from one of the best in the industry. INCREDIBLE course in every way!!


I Loved this course. I would definitely take another course by Susan Stripling. Her images are beautiful. She has the posing, timing, lighting, mood, etc. all down perfectly and makes amazing, beautiful pictures. She is an excellent communicator as a teacher too.